From farmer to businessman

The fact that food companies prosper but farmers commit suicide shows that profits are in the market, not the farm. It is time to replicate the Amul story many times over


In the ongoing debates on the new land acquisition bill, the potential of agribusiness to address agrarian distress has not been explored. There are several domestic agriculture companies, both listed and private, that are doing extremely well amidst an increasing number of farmers’ suicides.

The classic case is of suicides by cotton farmers. Of late, share prices of textile companies are performing extremely well and attracting huge private investment, but cotton farmers continue to be in distress. Even in staples such as pulses, rice and wheat, food companies do well but the farmers are in trouble. It is significant that all these foods are processed, but not by the farmer. The money is clearly in the market, and not merely in production.

Cotton farming
“Textile company shares are booming but cotton farmers continue to be in distress.” Picture shows a cotton farmer with bales for sale at the market yard in Warangal, Telangana. Photo: M. Murali / Picture from THE HINDU

Recognising this, several farmer-owned producer companies and new types of self-reliant cooperatives, broadly called Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs), have recently been set up. They aggregate, sometimes process, and then market agricultural produce. The best example of such an FPO is Amul Dairy. Along with other National Dairy Development Board (NDDB)-promoted dairy cooperatives, they have brought millions out of poverty.

In this context, a cold, hard look is required at how agribusiness operates, and at the policy measures, if any, that need to be put in place to enable FPOs to thrive. However, non-dairy agriculture is far more difficult to handle. Prices and supply are volatile and vary at times by over 100 per cent unlike in the case of milk. This not only makes farming difficult, but agribusiness as well.

A look at the listed successful companies in food processing, if we exclude multi-national companies that focus entirely on semi-ready or ready-to-eat foods, shows the following: for listed rice and pulse mills,…continue reading


12 million people have no cooking arrangements in India, says study



Around 12 million people in India have no proper cooking arrangements. The situation is worse in urban India where around seven per cent of households lack cooking arrangements while in rural India over one per cent of households is deprived of the facility. The facts were revealed by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) report based on the 68th round of survey. Maharashtra (3.8 per cent) and Andhra Pradesh (2.7 per cent) are the top two states which reported “no cooking arrangement”, the survey says. According to the report, the situation has worsened over the years. It says that 0.7 per cent of rural households lacked any cooking facility in 1993-94 which touched 1.3 per cent in 2012. Similar is the situation in urban India where 6.3 per cent households…continue reading

Organic farming, Sabari shows the way

An organic farm revolution is brewing all over India, it appears. Many states have announced their own organic farming policies.


Production of bio-control agents, bio-pesticides and bio-fertilisers, is yet to gain momentum in public sector organisations.
Production of bio-control agents, bio-pesticides and bio-fertilisers, is yet to gain momentum in public sector organisations. / Picture from THE HNDU

Sabari, a tribal women’s self-help group (SHG) of the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) under Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) at Ambalavayal, has launched commercial production of bio-products to support the organic revolution. The members of the SHG of Nellarachal tribal colony were guided by KVK 11-years ago to enter the field to produce bio-products. They were facing hard times then, as their paddy-fields got submerged by the Karapuzha Irrigation project, according to P. Rajendran, head of the KVK.

The KVK selected 10 tribal women with SSLC qualification, and gave them six months training in fungal and bacterial culture, and packing. Under a…continue reading

Push irrigation, not dams


ground water, ground water recharge, salinity of water, Bay of Bengal, Indian farmers, farmers irrigation, irrigation technique, water dams, dams in India, indian express
The presence of a low salinity layer of water with low density is a reason for the maintenance of high sea-surface temperatures in the Bay of Bengal, creating low-pressure areas and leading to the intensification of monsoon activity.(Illustration by: C R Sasikumar) / Picture from Indian Express


Recent scholarship supports the chief minister’s refreshing perspective. It shows that most of the peninsular river basins (the Kaveri, Krishna and Godavari) and the Narmada and Tapti have reached full or partial basin closure, with few possibilities of any further dam construction. In the Ganga plains, the topography is completely flat and storages cannot be located there. The problem further up in the Himalayas is that we confront one of the most fragile ecosystems in the world. The Himalayas are comparatively young mountains with high rates of erosion. Their upper catchments have little vegetation to bind the soil. Deforestation has aggravated the problem. Rivers descending from the Himalayas, therefore, tend to have high sediment loads. The Geological Survey of India records many cases of power turbines becoming dysfunctional following siltation. Climate change is making the predictability of river flows extremely uncertain. Diverting rivers will also create large dry regions, with adverse impact on local livelihoods (fisheries and agriculture). The neo-tectonism of the Brahmaputra valley and its surrounding highlands in the eastern Himalayas means that modifying topography by excavation or creating water and sediment…continue reading

People in Sundarbans most susceptible to climate change

DOWN TO EARTH | A K Ghosh| AUGUST 3 2015

The worst-affected and most vulnerable people are those living in the deltasCredit: Marufish/Flickr
The worst-affected and most vulnerable people are those living in the deltas Credit: Marufish/Flickr / Picture from Down to Earth

The phenomenon of “climate change” has undoubtedly become one of the major concerns for the global community in the 21st century. Scientific evidence has proved beyond doubt the role of human beings in triggering unprecedented changes in the environment, beginning post-Industrial Revolution in the west. While the prolonged debate on climate crisis and how to combat it with mitigation and adaptation measures continue, so does the ever-increasing emission of greenhouse gases (GHG), especially carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Countries with a long history of colonial exploitation in the southern part of the world point out to the historical emitters from the north, who, they feel, should bear the cost of remedial action. But even after more than 20 Meetings of the Conference of the Parties (COP) for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), no acceptable solution can be seen. Meanwhile, people around the world are facing the fury of nature in the form of heat waves, cyclones and storm surges, floods, mountain deluge and drought. The worst-affected and most vulnerable people are those living in the deltas.

India and Bangladesh share the largest deltas in the World—the Ganga, Meghna, and Brahmaputra (GMB) Delta...continue reading

Linking India’s rivers may not be a fruitful exercise, feel environmentalists

The Centre has declared the first inter-state interlinking of rivers, the Ken-Betwa link, involving Uttar Pradesh and Madhya PradeshCredit: Abhishek  Sapre
The Centre has declared the first inter-state interlinking of rivers, the Ken-Betwa link, involving Uttar Pradesh and Madhya PradeshCredit: Abhishek Sapre / Picture from Down to Earth


The Centre is keen on interlinking rivers to ensure better flood and drought management and solve water crisis in the country. Interlinking involves the process of diverting surplus river water through a network of canals to relatively drier areas either within a state or among two or more states. Since the time it was rooted, the idea has generated a lot of debate due to its supposed negative environmental impacts. After declaring the first inter-state interlinking of rivers, the Ken-Betwa link, (involving Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh), the Centre is looking forward to announce more such projects. The topic has been raised in every meeting after the Narendra Modi government came to power last May organised by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. In April this year,…continue reading

Chronicle of a struggle retold


"The battle over the Narmada dam reflects a journey, a pilgrimage, and a recollection of 30 years of resistance."
“The battle over the Narmada dam reflects a journey, a pilgrimage, and a recollection of 30 years of resistance.” / Picture from The Hindu

Thus, this calendar chronicles a festival of resistance, of protest, a people’s history of what they think development should mean. As one comes to the last page of the calendar, one feels both hopelessness and a sense of what can be called the poetry of resistance. Today, the movement faces defeat as the new India confronts it with indifference, silence and erasure. Why? This is because development has become the new religion of a middle class, yet the question of the dam — as a problem for science, ethics, history and democracy — stands as an act of defiance, and no matter how weak, resurrects its perpetual questions.

This calendar is a small statement — about memory and defiance. Yet, I wanted to celebrate it because it speaks memory to silence, conscience to indifference and truth to the centrality of power. May be it sounds quixotic, even romantic. Yet, one hopes that every secretariat and every room in the Prime Minister’s Office and his revitalised Planning Committees will carry it. It will be a small reminder of what we have done to our own people. Also, this article is a small ‘thank you’ to all the groups that created this act of memory as a reminder that conscience is not dead in India…continued reading